I’ve been talking a lot about my dissertation lately (surprise), and wanted to go ahead and stick a quick run down of what I’m doing here too. I’m very excited about the work I’m doing, and I would love to hear your feedback! I’m also happy to share my documentation and talk more about my process with anyone who is interested.
What is this project about?
I started thinking about this topic after being encouraged to look at Ernestine Rose by one of my mentors. The project has evolved over time, and while her career is still the jumping off point, I’m now focusing on her work at the Harlem Public Library in particular. She was at this library from 1920-1942. There are a handful of articles in our field that argue that Rose helped make the library into an innovative community space and an integral part of the Harlem Renaissance (e.g. Anderson, 2003; Jenkins, 1990). While she initially worked to integrate the library by hiring people of color, there are some indications that she dampened her support for the advancement and inclusion of these same folks later on in their careers (Whitmire 2007, 2014).
I’m using the documents held in several New York City repositories (New York Public Library’s 42nd Street Branch and Schomburg Center, Columbia University archives, and New York Municipal Archives) that relate to the library to describe the library, and also to test two theories (more on why that matters later). There are a couple challenges/considerations that I want to mention right off the bat. My research is very context-heavy, so it’s vital for me to describe that context and how the library fits within it, rather than describing the library as though it exists in a vacuum. Equally as important is discussing the role of other people besides Rose within the library. While my focus is on her career, I don’t want to risk overshadowing the contributions of others by only talking about her.
Why does it matter?
There are several big reasons (in my opinion) why this project is important. First of all, most of what’s out there focuses on the library’s role in the Harlem Renaissance, where became a well-known center for events and a place where authors often went to write (Anderson, 2003; Jenkins, 1990). There is not a lot of information currently about the library during the Great Depression and the beginning years of World Way II, both of which would have presumably had a big impact on the library. In addition, no one has thoroughly discussed her work and the library within the broader context of New York City, the New York Public Library system, or society as a whole throughout this 22 year period.
Additionally, no one has applied the two theoretical frameworks I’m using to historical research. The first of these is a framework I’m developing to analyze change (called, appropriately, Change in Historic Institutions). I’ve made a model of this, and plan to share the model in a more detailed post later on, but for now I’ll just focus on the broad concepts. This model focuses on identifying change, discussing whether that change is innovative or adaptive, and its impact and perceptions. Second, I’m looking at Information Worlds, which envisions actors within the variety of contexts they navigate, and uses five concepts (Information value, information behavior, social norms, social types, and boundaries) to describe those worlds and the interaction between them. Both theories are very broad and adaptable, and very context-focused, making them appropriate for this study. These are drastically oversimplified discussions of both theories, so if you have questions, I’m happy to go into further detail!
Finally, I think this work has the potential to be used by professionals in public library settings. When she was working in Harlem, Ernestine Rose had already had some experience in her career (she was about 40 when she took the job), and would have needed to draw on this experience while remaining adaptable and flexible to meet the needs of a quickly changing neighborhood. Her employees also faced discrimination from the library system, and used their own experiences to make the library a dynamic and community-oriented place. The story of Rose and the library as a whole might offer some useful ideas for modern librarians on what to do (and perhaps what not to do) in their own institutions.
References for your reading pleasure:
Anderson, S. A. (2003). “The Place to Go”: The 135th Street Branch Library and the Harlem Renaissance. Library Quarterly, 73(4): 383–421.
Jenkins, B. L. (1990). A White Librarian in Black Harlem: Study to Chronicle and Assess Ernestine Rose’s Work during the Renaissance in Harlem. Library Quarterly60, 216–231.
Whitmire, E. (2007). Breaking the Color Barrier: Regina Andrews and the New York Public Library. Libraries & the Cultural Record, 42(4), 409–421.
Whitmire, E. (2014). Regina Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian. Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press.
We’ve had four great job talks for our social media faculty position recently. I missed the first two unfortunately (although I got to watch the webcasts!), but I did tweet the second two:
Last week, Jae-Wook Ahn presented on data analysis and social media. I drove him from the airport, and really enjoyed talking with him about his work. He has some really great ideas about how to combine qualitative and quantitative analysis.
Today, Seungwon Yang presented about social media and disasters, which is extra awesome because he does a CS-based approach that I think is a great compliment to the qualitative content analysis my co-researchers and myself have been doing of disaster tweets. He also talked about Twitter and revolution, which is something I’ve published research on too!
I have been spending this semester writing research methods papers on how we can study the information seeking behavior/needs of sexual assault survivors and/or the experience of survivors in the library. I am excited that I get to turn one of these (and hopefully more than one) into an actual study this summer, but it’s made me very aware of how little there is out there dealing with this issue. There aren’t any studies that look at survivors’ needs or experiences, and only one that discusses the issue at all. Since I won’t be doing my research until this summer, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a few thoughts I’ve been having about some simple ways we could improve library services now. I’ve taken these from my own experiences of looking for information and interacting with people during the earlier stages of my healing process, and from my understanding of research in social sciences as a whole. I would really love to hear from practitioners too–what are you doing at your library? What do you want to do? What barriers do you see to implementing changes (if any)? So here are my ideas, add your thoughts in the comments!
Scholarships/Fellowships United Negro College Fund: Scholarships for students at participating universities. Dolores Liebman Fund: For graduate studies at select schools. Folklore Fellowships: For newly-admitted graduate students at Utah State. The website says 2009, but the e-mail I got says they are offering it again. I’d be happy to forward it to anyone who is interested.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything besides funding updates (grad school will do that to you!) but I have been wanting to post something on listservs for a while. I’m of the opinion that listservs are a stellar way to stay informed about the field, learn about funding and conferences, and more. In fact, several of the publications I’ve been involved in were ones I learned about through listservs. This is especially great for students and new professionals, who are still feeling out their place in the field and want to learn from others. They are also great for anyone who wants to keep up to date on funding opportunities and calls for papers (two of my big focuses right now!)
Below is my “list of lists”–websites that you can go to and sign up for listservs that interest you. Since my focus is in LIS, Social Sciences, and the Humanities, that’s where I have focused my attention–if you know of a similar site I haven’t included, feel free to add it!
ALA Mailing List Service: All the listservs run through the American Library Association. I am an ALA member, but it looks like non-members can sign up too. Just follow the instructions when you hit ‘subscribe.’ After you complete the steps the first time, your e-mail address will be subscribed to other lists with one click.
H-Net Discussion Networks: H-Net (Humanities and Social Sciences online) is an awesome resource. They have calls for participation, conference alerts, and a heaping helping of listservs spanning just about every interest. By adding yourself to the lists you are most interested in, you’ll get updates from H-Net (which is very extensive and daunting to browse through) that are relevant to your chosen topics.
Conference Alerts: Most people I know haven’t heard of this one, which makes me feel like I am sharing some great secret with them. This site is incredible–it lists conferences from all over the world and across disciplines. You can search by country or topic. You can also sign up for e-mail alerts that you can customize to include whatever topics you want and whatever countries you want (I have mine set to tell me about conferences in all countries.) Then you’ll get occasional e-mails with a list of upcoming conferences that meet your criteria. I like to browse the list not only to find what conferences I might attend, but also to see if any of my current projects might fit into a call for papers.
WikiCFP: A resource for calls for papers in science and technology. You can sign up for an account, and create your own list of topics you want CFPs for. They also alert followers to new CFPs on Twitter (@WikiCFP.)
It’s time for my third installment of this funding opportunities post. Last week’s post was updated a couple times during the week, and I hope to keep doing that each week as more information about funding trickles in. I’ve decided to try something different this week and divide things up by discipline (where applicable.) Some of the awards are across disciplines, so those I’m still going to categorize by professional position. I’d like input on how it’s most helpful to lay these things out, so if you have ideas please share! Happy hunting!
>For those who read my blog posts a few months ago, you might remember this post where I celebrated the completion of my manuscript on Iowa libraries during World War I. Recently, I heard from a publisher I sent a proposal and sample chapter to, and they made some great suggestions for improvements that they wanted to see before the manuscript was sent through peer review. I wanted to share some thoughts here, but more importantly I wanted to solicit some input from folks who have read my research (or listened to me talk about it). I want my manuscript to be as awesome as possible, and I bet there are some great suggestions out there!
I ran across this rather lengthy quote while adding to my chapter on libraries from 1914-1916, and was so pleased by it I couldn’t wait to share it with you! It’s from the 1914 annual report, written by Iowa City Public Library’s librarian, Helen McRaith. Unfortunately my Internet was down yesterday (and most of today), so I had to contain my excitement until now:
“The modern idea of the function of a library is this—to study the literary needs of its own community and then to endeavor to meet these needs to the fullest extent, even if tradition must be violated in so doing.
The old-fashioned library was a cloistral place appealing only to the scholar, who moved silently among dust-covered tomes. The modern library possesses a different atmosphere and one more akin to that of a business office; most of the readers have the appearance of seeking information which will be of assistance in their daily problems rather than abstract knowledge.
There is a similar change in the appearance and attitude of the librarians. Formerly they seemed to look on the library as an end in itself and as a collection of interesting curiosities, they were willing to let it remain a stagnant literary pool. Now they must be alert specialists, keen to keep a stream of vital, useful knowledge flowing from the library to all parts of the community.” (Iowa City Public Library 1914 annual report, pg 1).
This reminds me so much of some of the current discussion circulating around the changing field of librarianship, even though it was written almost 100 years ago. Her writing has the same tone of excitement that I feel in my own blog and in reading the posts of other LIS bloggers, about the library as a place of expanding opportunities and of librarians as being people who are redefining the field rather than just participating in it.
There are a couple places in particular where her writing sounds like it could have been lifted out of a modern blog (and then had the language antiquated a bit, of course): there is so much concern right now about justifying the value of libraries, and a lot of that justification comes through pointing out that the library is used for practical purposes, as McRaith says, “…seeking information which will be of assistance in their daily problems rather than abstract knowledge.”